If you shop at Heinen’s, chances are Jackson Merriman has brightened your day
By Beth Friedman-Romell
Jackson Merriman lives up to his surname. If you have shopped at the local Heinen’s over the past 10 years, Jackson has undoubtedly lifted your spirits while he’s bagging and loading up your groceries. He brings natural warmth and friendliness, along with a knack for remembering details about his customers, to the job he’s loved ever since he began at the store as a tenth-grader at Shaker Heights High School (‘08 grad).
For example, I’ve always appreciated that Jackson remembers I’m Jewish, and asks me how my holidays have been – and not just the major ones.
“I like getting to know my customers,” Jackson told me when we met for coffee recently at Gimme Java, just around the corner from Heinen’s. “Especially the little kids. They run up to me, they call my name, they hug me…it’s great!”
This 26-year-old Shaker resident is enthusiastic about his hometown and everyone in it. He has fond memories of close friends, nice teachers, and playing on sports teams while growing up with his parents, Tom and Anne, and three younger siblings, Dylan (24), Kiki (22), and Izzy (17). Jackson still lives happily in his childhood home in the Fernway neighborhood.
He’s proud to contribute to the household in many ways, including cooking dinners and helping out with the cleaning.
For fun, Jackson enjoys attending action-adventure movies with his long-time school friend, Nate, going out to dinner with family and friends, working out at Lifetime Fitness, attending Cleveland sporting events, and traveling to tropical islands with the family.
“I’m half Puerto-Rican, half-Italian, so I tan easily,” he jokes. Jackson explains that the Merrimans adopted him when he was two months old. “I was lucky,” he says. “I’m the only one that was adopted in my family.”
Typically, where others might see a glass half-empty, Jackson sees it as overflowing. He’s grateful that from a young age, he’s been able to have a good, open relationship with his birth mother and her other child.
Jackson’s positive attitude no doubt aided his recovery from a recent series of frightening health challenges. It all began with surgery to repair a knee injury, which resulted in a staph infection.
During the course of treatment, doctors discovered he had Brugada Syndrome, a rare heart condition that frequently results in sudden cardiac arrest. After Jackson wore a cumbersome defibrillator vest at all times for about six months, his doctors were able to implant a small defibrillator in his shoulder, which keeps him healthy and “doesn’t bother me at all.”
Again, he describes himself as lucky. “If I hadn’t needed surgery on my knee, they never would have found out about the other problem. I’d probably be dead.”
Jackson is similarly open and sanguine about another medical condition that is often misunderstood in our culture.
“Another thing you don’t know about me: I have Tourette’s Syndrome, which means I have facial and vocal tics. It’s nothing serious. I was diagnosed in middle school. People used to make fun of me, but I ignored them. You get used to it.”
Medication has made a huge difference for Jackson’s condition. “Basically it doesn’t interfere with my life at all
“It’s nothing serious.” That’s Jackson. He exudes optimism and love, and everybody loves him back. You can tell from the huge smile and greeting he gets from Al Plummer, proprietor of Gimme Java, where Jackson’s a regular. You can tell from the little kids who gleefully shout his name as they give him a big hug at Heinen’s. You can tell from the dozens of customers who asked after his welfare, sent cards, and even visited during his illness.
As Plummer puts it, “He’s one of those people who brings about an everyday smile and laughter, who creates lasting relationships. That’s an integral part of what Shaker Heights is all about.”